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Majority of over 65s have never used the internet

Published 28/03/2018

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In a new briefing paper published this morning, Age Action calls for urgent support to tackle high rates of digital exclusion among older people who are in danger of being left behind in an increasingly online Ireland.

Supporting Digital Literacy Among Older People
Graduates from an Age Action Getting Started class.

Figures from Eurostat show that 50 per cent of people in Ireland aged between 65 and 74 have never been online compared with 16 per cent in Britain. In 2013, the Government described the number of people over 75 who are online as ‘negligible’.

Justin Moran, Head of Advocacy and Communications with Age Action, said: “An entire generation of older people is being left behind, cut off from all of the opportunities and benefits of being able to use the internet.

“Far fewer older people in Ireland are online compared with Britain and our other EU neighbours. As service providers like banks push customers to do their business online this is making it increasingly difficult for older people to get information and to access services.

“We know there are enormous social benefits for older people who are online and research shows it can reduce depression among older people by as much as 30 per cent.

“For many older people it is a vital link to friends and families, a way to explore new hobbies and interests, and some have turned their skills to starting businesses or highlighting social issues.”

Reform and invest

Age Action runs its own computer training programme, Getting Started, with funding from the Digital Skills for Citizens scheme run by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment.

Justin Moran continued: “We train thousands of older people to use the internet every year. We know they are as capable as anyone else of learning how to send emails, shop and bank online, or to use social media.

“But the resources are simply not there to cope with the demand for classes, to provide them in one-to-one settings or to enable older people to repeat classes to build up their confidence.

"The Government’s training programmes have helped tens of thousands people get online but the stark gap between internet use by older people in Ireland and among our EU neighbours shows just how much we need to improve."

Barriers to getting online

The paper identifies a number of barriers preventing older people getting online including ageism, a lack of confidence, the absence of broadband locally and cost, which was highlighted as a factor in research from Britain.

In June, a new Telephone Support Allowance of €2.50 a week will be introduced for those who qualify for the means-tested Fuel Allowance and live alone.

Justin Moran said: “A broadband-only deal could cost as much as €50 a month, which is a lot for someone on the State Pension. Older people, particularly those living alone, should not be priced off the internet.

“The new funding is very welcome but it’s far smaller than the old Telephone Allowance used to be and restricted to a small number of people. We’d like to see the Government increase it over the next two budgets.”

The paper sets out a number of recommendations on how to support older people to get online, see below, and Age Action will be seeking to meet with the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment and other policymakers in the coming weeks.

Main recommendations

  1. Immediately double funding for the Digital Skills for Citizens Grant Scheme to €4.4 million in Budget 2019 to provide more training places and to improve the scheme’s coverage in rural Ireland.
  2. Reform the Digital Skills for Citizens Grant Scheme to provide financial incentives to organisations to provide one-to-one training, to allow learners to repeat classes to build their confidence, to provide training in the older person’s home where this is necessary and to provide technical support to the newly online.
  3. Support older people on low incomes to access the internet by increasing the Telephone Support Allowance to €4 per week over the next two budgets at an estimated approximate cost of €17 million.
  4. Develop and roll out a national digital skills learning programme, integrating it with existing community infrastructure, particularly libraries and post offices, and consider looking to the British Online Centres Network and AbilityNet in Britain as potential models.

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Summer Raffle Winners

Congratulations to the winners of our Summer Raffle. We're so grateful to everyone who participated and who raised more than 18,000 euro to support older people in Ireland.

This year's winners were:

1st Prize winner €1,500

S Deegan, Dublin

2nd Prize winner €1,000

A Parks, Dublin

3rd Prize winner €500

M Dangerfield, Dublin

And the winner of our Sellers Prize was:

Sellers Prize €100

M Kane, Galway, €100

Thank you to all who supported the raffle, this is one of our biggest and most reliable fundraisers, so your support makes all the difference.

 

Top tips for staying cool

  • Keep out of the heat. Stay inside during the hottest time of the day – late morning to mid-afternoon. If you do go out, wear a hat and keep to the shade as much as possible. It’s very important to use sun screen of at least factor 15.
  • If you are travelling by car or public transport always take a bottle of water.
  • Avoid strenuous activity and limit activities like housework and gardening to the early morning or evening when it’s cooler.
  • When inside, try to stay in the coolest parts of your home. Keep curtains and blinds closed in rooms that catch the sun. Remember that lights generate heat. Keep windows shut while it’s cooler inside than out and open them when it gets hotter inside. If it’s safe, you could leave a window open at night when it’s cooler. Fans can help sweat evaporate but do not cool the air itself.
  • Wear loose, lightweight, light-coloured cotton clothing.
  • Take cool baths or showers.
  • Splash your face with cold water or place a damp cloth or scarf on the back of your neck to help you cool off.
  • Drink lots of fluid – even if you’re not thirsty. Limit drinks with caffeine (like coffee and cola) and avoid alcohol as it can increase dehydration.
  • Eat normally but try to have more cold foods, particularly salads and fruit as they contain a lot of water.

Dehydration and overheating

Extreme heat and humidity can cause you to dehydrate and your body to overheat. Watch out for certain signs: particularly for muscle cramps in your arms, legs or stomach, mild confusion, weakness or sleep problems. If you have any of these, rest in a cool place and drink plenty of fluids. Seek medical advice if your symptoms persist or worsen.

Heat exhaustion and heatstroke

The symptoms of heat exhaustion include headaches, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, pale skin, heavy sweating and a high temperature.

If you have any of these symptoms you must:

  • find a cool place and loosen tight clothes
  • drink plenty of water or fruit juice
  • sponge yourself with cold water or have a cool shower.

If you’re having difficulty, or your symptoms persist for several hours, seek medical advice. Heatstroke can develop if heat exhaustion is left untreated - but it can also develop suddenly and without warning. The symptoms of heatstroke include hot and red skin, headaches, nausea, intense thirst, raised temperature, confusion, aggression and loss of consciousness. Heatstroke is a life-threatening condition.

So if you or someone else shows symptoms:

  • call 999 immediately or 112 if you are in the European Union (you can call 112 from a mobile for free). If you have a community or personal alarm press the button on your pendant to call for help.
  • while waiting for the ambulance, follow the advice given above for heat exhaustion but do not try to give fluids to anyone who is unconscious.

Further information

If you live alone consider asking a relative or friend to visit or phone to check that you are not having difficulties during periods of extreme heat.

  • If you know a neighbour who lives alone, check they are ok.
  •  Check for weather forecasts and temperature warnings on TV and radio, and online at  https://www.met.ie/warnings
  • If you have breathing problems or a heart condition your symptoms might get worse when it’s very hot.
  • For further advice about heat-related illness contact your GP.